Friday, January 30, 2009

Coming up for air

Finally time to draw some breath in what is a hectic period for the union.

Quick update - Tuesday I met Journalist editor Tim Gopsill to discuss the next stage of our web integration plans before meeting staff union reps to discuss the union's financial situation and our response to it. Barry Fitzpatrick, Michelle Stanistreet and I then met Malcolm Vickers, head of HR for Johnston Press to press our concerns about jobs cuts, centralised subbing plans, pay freezes and so on and to get an update on company plans and finances. Tuesday evening I did a media interview (as a source so i'm saying no more!).

Wednesday morning I and Sue Harris met with Mike Danson the joint owner of New Statesman for constructive talks on the union's recognition claim. There is an agreement in principle to recognise the union - we've now given ourselves a 4-week period to flesh out the details of the collective bargaining agreement.

I then did something I hate doing - had to pull out of a conference at the last minute. I was due to speak at the British Institute of Human Rights Conference but got tied up helping out a chapel about to go in to dispute after they received legal threats from their management.

Thursday morning I met with Stephen Pearse to build on plans agreed at the Jobs Summit in respect of the debate on media ownership, state aid and our plans for lobbies and protests. More details will be announced shortly...and some may just be a surprise!

I then did an interview on media portrayals of Islam and muslims before heading across to The Independent to talk to chapel negotiators about the next stage of the campaign there over threatened redundancies. A quick dash across to Shepherd's Bush for Bectu General Secretary Gerry Morrissey and I to meet the new head of the BBC in Salford, Peter Salmon and the HR team (or People people as they are) followed by a meeting of the joint unions national reps with the Salford team.

This morning I went to New Scotland Yard to speak to around 50 senior police officers as part of their Advanced Public Order Officers training course. This was one of the initiatives to come out of our meetings with the Home Office to try to ensure the media guidelines are better undertstood and enforced. I ran through a number of examples of the types of complaints we'd had, tackled some of the thorny topics raised by questions about cordons, media pens, the papparazi, who should make moral decisions about what pictures can and can't be taken (i'll give you a clue - not the police), how journalists identify themselves, how we enforce our code of conduct (this gave me the chance to have a rant about Thatcher's anti-union laws) and many other topics. It was a useful, if gruelling exercise.

Back to the office to try and catch up on some of the emails/correspondence/bills which have been neglected for a few days before heading to London Metropolitan University to address a UCU/Unison job cuts rally. Amongst the things I said are:
"There is a fundamental reason why every trade unionist should be standing with you.
UK PLC is in recession. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will go. At such a time further and higher education becomes not less but more important. Expanding education is a vital response to economic crisis. London Met, a vibrant university with a mix of class and ethnicity and culture must be central to helping re-skill and retrain Londoners facing a daunting future not adding to the unemployment figures. Education cuts are a false economy".

Now I've drawn breath I'm getting ready to write to Ofcom about S4C, the BBC about the safety of journalists and looking forward to a weekend of putting together Informed, the NEC newsletter.

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